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Psst…it’s hatching!

February 14, 2012

No, not the turtle egg in one of the lower school science classes. It’s our new site,!

Don’t worry; the links and discussion that have happened here will be preserved here, and in the coming days and weeks the best of this site will be archived onto the new one as well. If you haven’t already, please sign up to let us know if and how you’d like to be involved with this new project.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be exploring the idea of democracy as it relates to education policy-making, as well as the role of education in a democratic republic. If you’ve got ideas or examples you think should be spread far and wide, please share!


Reclaiming Reform

February 3, 2012

After weeks of discussing, brainstorming and developing, we’re excited to bring you the next evolution of the Failing Schools Project, Reclaiming Reform. The new project will debut the week of Valentine’s Day (because we #LovePublicEd)!

We’re impressed and excited by all of the real reform activity that’s been built here, around the blogosphere and the social media world, and in the in-person world with conferences, marches, grade-ins and more. We’ve seen– and penned– searing indictments of what education reform isn’t. Now, we’d like to create a deliberate space to talk about what real reform is, and we need your help. There are living examples all over the country, and ideas still to be imagined.

Fill out the form below (or click here) if you’d like to be a part of building something together.

In solidarity & progress,
Sabrina, Maria & Mark

We’re evolving…Stay tuned!

November 28, 2011

Happy Monday, everyone! We hope everyone had a great weekend.

We know we’ve been quiet for a WHILE now, but there are some exciting new developments in the works. Watch this space, and follow us on Twitter (look down and right) for updates on what’s to come, and how you can get involved. And of course, feel free to leave ideas and messages about what you’d like to see in the comments. Thanks so much!
–Sabrina, Maria & Mark

Is this data-driven decision-making? (UPDATED)

September 4, 2011

Originally published on December 13, 2010 at 4:02PM MST.

Accountability and results. That’s what school reform à la NCLB and RTTT is supposed to be all about, right? In order to ensure that all kids are getting the education they need and deserve, we need to set high goals and expectations, and then “measure to see if we’re gettin’ results.” When we measure (and measure and measure…), and find that we’re not getting results, we have to do something about it. That’s the primary justification for turnarounds where teachers are fired en masse, and when schools are closed or converted to charters.

So why doesn’t this same hard-line approach seem to apply to supplemental educational services (SES) providers? The No Child Left Behind act stipulates that low-income children in low-performing schools are entitled to receive tutoring to help bring them up to grade level, at no expense to their families. States are expected to remove vendors from their approved provider lists if they fail to show results for two straight years, but this is rarely done. As a result, these SES providers have received large sums of public money to help students, even though they are often labeled as “ineffective” or “needs improvement” (the same kinds of labels that trigger state intervention, turnaround, and closure for public schools).  In some cases, there is even evidence of fraud and other wrong-doing. Read more…

A worm in the Apple for teachers

August 22, 2011

Recently I stopped at a mall with one of my daughters for a quick trip to a particular store.  By chance, I passed by the Apple store and saw a poster that instantly raised my blood pressure.  Young teen in tow, I stopped short, marched into the store, and requested of the nearest store employee the contact information for the Apple customer relations department.  The poor guy asked if he could help but I calmly explained that he probably couldn’t.  I was infuriated by the poster suggesting that Apple was “helping” teachers in low-income schools because it is teaming with Teach for America to donate iPads to TFA employees.  Uh, Apple, if you really want to help  teachers in urban schools, maybe y’all could start by helping those with experience and education in the field.

Read more…

Community Education Task Force Slate for Educational Change

August 12, 2011

We in the Community Education Task Force in Rochester, New York have been struggling around several crucial issues that touch many other locations. We were part of a successful effort against the attempt to bring about mayoral control in the Rochester City School District (at least temporarily, as we know the issue will be back). We were part of a collective effort to push out a Broad-trained Superintendent, Jean-Claude Brizard, and have since continued the struggle against corporate-driven privatization reforms in favor of grassroots community-driven decision making and empowerment. We held a large community-wide education summit in which we engaged parents, students, teachers, and concerned community members on how to best focus and redirect reform efforts. Following the Summit we have continued active initiatives centered around our guiding principles.

Read more…

Save Our Schools March

August 3, 2011

From the Smithsonian American History Museum.

I was going to call this piece a recap, but that really isn’t an accurate description.  I participated in the conference and the march and the grand consensus among most of us was that the Save Our Schools March is only a beginning. It must be only a beginning, fostering a well-organized national movement to literally save our schools.  I do not support the status quo; I support quality schools and equity of resources for all children.

I had planned well before the trip that I would not participate in the post-SOS March congress, in order to visit the Holocaust Museum. (A temporary exhibit on propaganda at the museum was eerily pertinent to the current rhetoric regarding public schools.)  Numerous supporters around the country will need some related debriefing about where, and how, we should concentrate our efforts if we are to address the very real problems with our educational system.  What happens next depends on our collective ability and willingness to unite and work diligently, even courageously, on behalf of public schools. I’m in. Are you up for it?

Here are some shots from Saturday:

Thanks so much to Matt Damon for coming out. Still, I really wish Diane Ravitch, as an educational celebrity, could get her props in place of bone-headed op-eds.

Arne Duncan celebrated Katrina's effect on New Orleans Schools. New Orleans parents know better and say "Do Not Replicate!"

My sign. My respect to the young people of New Orleans and across the country; I used the words "niños" and "kids" here because they resonate better for my message, and because I am an early childhood education teacher.

The facial expression reflects the depth of his comprehension of what's really going on in public schools, ¿qué no? But why bother with accuracy when you have silent donors with deep pockets ready to promote your film?

Bless, you Vicky from Idaho, for your generosity and your magic bag! However, I suggest we change the word "ask" to something stronger. Insist that Congress provide quality and equality.

Here lie Imagination, Joy, Creativity and much more of what we cherish.

May we raise our voices and join our efforts to both honor and revive the spirits of those who lie here.

Quality in early childhood education–bean counting or best practice?

July 25, 2011

Quality in early education and childcare is indisputably important. Some regulation of these facilities is essential in order to ensure safe and enriching environments for young children, whether they are based in a home, community-based site, or school setting.  However, there is a point where regulation can become a mishmash of silly mandates and hoops to jump through, if not an outright intrusion on educator practices.  Colorado’s Early Childcare Division in its Department of Human Services has proposed changes in its Rules and Regulations to enable providers to obtain a license.  This 98 page document, still in draft form, is definitely drawing attention.  However, it has some people questioning the apparent fussiness of some of its parameters, and certain others worried about practicalities and costs of the proposals.  Cost of compliance with new regulations may force some smaller care-providers out of business, as well as raise fees for parents who can ill afford further strains on their budgets.  On the other hand, it does have people discussing the meaning of quality in early education, and maybe the current attention, even if negative,  is better than the dismissive attitude many  seem hold when it comes to preschool programs.

Read more…

“But no one’s saying test scores should be *everything*…”

July 14, 2011

Not out loud, no. And not on purpose, sure.

I find myself talking about value-added measures (a statistical method of trying to assess teacher effectiveness using student test scores– read more of my thoughts on the issue here and here.) a lot lately. Usually, I’m speaking with reporters or people who are interested in the politics of education, but haven’t worked in schools any time in recent memory. They often ask why some folks (including myself) get so nervous about the practice, if VAM scores are only supposed to be part of a teacher’s overall evaluation.

Setting aside for a moment the problems inherent to using test scores to judge, well, anyone, let’s take a moment to consider the context into which these new evaluation practices will be introduced. While it’s true that many new evaluation plans do not explicitly require that all of a teacher’s evaluation be tied to test scores, given the current environment in many schools, it is very possible that this will become the de facto reality. Read more…

MOMocrats MOMoradio Spot, July 13

July 13, 2011

I (Sabrina) did a BlogTalkRadio interview this morning with Cynematic & Donna of the MOMocrats! Topics discussed included the Jonah Edelman/Stand for Children controversy, Michelle Rhee-style reform vs. community-driven reform, and the Save Our Schools March. Do give it a listen, and be sure to check out the MOMocrats online, and K12 News Network as well.

Click here to listen.